Year of Yes

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

About:

The Year of Yes is about just that – a pact that Shonda made with herself where she would say yes for an entire year. In this book, you get an inside look at Shonda Rhimes, the person, rather than Shonda Rhimes, the founder of TGIT. Shonda the person is internally confident but externally afraid. She has all the characteristics of a writer, but lacks those of a creator and executive producer of some of the nation’s favorite guilty pleasures including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. As you learn about Shonda’s internal conflicts you, in turn, watch her fight through them due to her Year of Yes. During this year, Shonda sees how her life changes by accepting opportunities rather than running from them.

year of yes shonda rhimes

The Pro:

The book will make you feel connected with Shonda Rhimes but will also inspire you to get out of your own way and follow a path to success (ideally like Shonda, but realistically more like the climb from secretary to assistant director). It will open your eyes to the possibilities that come with taking advantage of opportunities. The book will give you a sense of guidance to becoming more focused and willing to succeed. With that, you also build a type of relationship with Shonda, as if she’s one of us. Shonda’s rationale behind always saying ‘no’ to the things that scared her is what makes this witty yet heartbreaking memoir so humanizing and relatable, while also making you love Shonda even more.

The Con:

With someone as successful and creative as Shonda, being a writer myself, I wished I had gotten a bit more of advice from her. Maybe some tips on how she got started in her career or any type of advice for reader’s who look up to her. The book is classified as a biography and, although it does give an overview on her past experiences and accomplishments, we really only get a thorough glimpse of her Year of Yes. This book is not at all a business book, but more of a self-help book written by one of the world’s best.

Important Takeaways:

“The only obstacle to your success in your own imagination.”

“Standing around like Wonder Woman in the morning can make people think you are more amazing at lunchtime.”

“I am not a person who can see a problem and not solve it. But I don’t mean that in a “heroic Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus” way. I mean it in a sad, control-freak “The toast crusts must be cut off to the same exact millimeter measurement every time” way.”

“No matter how hard a conversation is, I know that on the other side of that difficult conversation lies peace.”

Rating: 

As long as you don’t have the expectations of learning something tangible in terms of career or advice, this book is A+. Shonda is one of us. She’s insecure, she doesn’t always say the right thing, she struggles with friendships and relationships and, best of all, she doesn’t take it back. This is the type of book you won’t want to put down. It’s a quick, easy read that will give you the nudge you need to accept the opportunities in your life while also learning a lot about the woman behind TGIT. I would recommend this book to any woman in any industry. If you’re not a Shonda Rhimes fan yet, you will be after this book.

You can see how this book affected me in my Letter to Shonda (still anxiously awaiting her response).

 

 

A Letter to Shonda Rhimes

shondra rhimes

Let me describe me as a child. I had big Harry Potter-looking glasses (before there was Harry Potter) with the lenses sticking out past and around my eyes due to the sexy added bonus of my astigmatism. I had frizzy hair that I didn’t know (or want to know) how to maintain. I would stop at the water fountain at school every chance I could to try and defuse the loose ringlets jarring out of all sides of my face. They weren’t fluff, they were frizz. And they could take you along with them.

My solace from the complexities of dealing with “the awkward stage” was reading. I would read books while our class walked in line to recess. I would read books while in recess. I would read books in the cafeteria at lunch. I was isolated and alone, but I didn’t feel alone.

When I wasn’t reading fiction, I was writing it. I would write about who I envisioned myself to be when I was “older.” How I hoped I would be. I would create who I wanted my friends to be. This is where you really spoke to me Shonda – “I named them and wrote every detail about them. I gave them stories and homes and families. I wrote about their parties and their dates and their friendships and their lives and they were so very real to me that – I built it in my mind as a place to hold my stories. A safe place. A space for my characters to exist. A space for ME to exist. Until I could get the hell out of being a teenager and could run out into the world and be myself.”

Looking back, I’m almost alarmed at how nerdy and awkward I was. But I didn’t feel nerdy and awkward at the time. I felt awesome. A type of awesome that my peers just weren’t ready to understand yet. But I would lie. A lot. If I did make friends, I would lose them because I had devised some manipulative, truly uncanny lie that I got them all to believe. Not because I didn’t want to be honest, but so that I could pretend to be someone else. So I could see what other people would do in the situations I had put them in. The human race was, and still is, a mystery I yearn to figure out.

(Disclaimer: I am no longer a young and crazy pathological liar. In fact, lying now gives me anxiety)

Television was another escape of mine. To learn about someone else, to feel for someone else. This holds true back then and still to this day – I’d much rather feel sorry for someone else than myself. It was my escape. Analyzing another person’s life was way more interesting to me than figuring out my own.

My biggest, guiltiest, most addicting escape was Grey’s Anatomy. I could feel their pain and I could relate to their words. And I aspired to one day become Christina Yang,

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up The Year of Yes. I knew it would be entertaining. How could it not, written from the mastermind behind TGIT. I had no idea, though, how much I would relate to you, Shonda. How the stories of your past reminded me of my own stories. It’s almost like connecting to Grey’s Anatomy on a deeper level. Because what writing, and storytelling, mean to me is similar to what it means to you. Your connection with writing brought me Grey’s Anatomy. And it brought me Christina Yang.

I’m not a movie person as much as I’m a TV person. The reason for this goes back to my desire to understand the human psyche – my interest in character development. For connection with a character and curiously watching how their life progresses. No matter how much I wrote as a child, and even now, I could’ve never created someone I’d want to aspire to be more than you did with Christina Yang.

Because of all these things, I spent much of my younger years aspiring to be a television writer. In college, I would scribble down funny quotes my friends would say that would one day be used for one of my successful sitcoms. For reasons not to be explained here, I decided I would keep writing as a hobby, and an outlet, rather than my primary source of income. I don’t regret that, but reading your book made me very reminiscent and gave me reminder, and motivation, to keep finding time to write.

There’s no real reason for this letter, if you’re still reading and you’re looking for one. Ultimately, I wanted to say Thank You, Shonda. For reminding me of who I use to be, how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go. But no matter what, I’ll keep “laying track” with the encouragement of knowing that it worked, oh did it work, for someone who deserved to get where she is.

You can learn more about Year of Yes in my book review.